Checks And Balances Are Guardrails Against Donald Trump


I spoke with a Madison woman on the sidewalk a week ago about local neighborhood issues.  As we moved the conversation to national matters she spoke of great unease and anxiety among many people she knew concerning the crisis we now confront with impeachment.  She was not being partisan when she conveyed her feelings.   She was just giving voice to what I hear often when talking about national headlines.   Many are worried about the country.

From the start of this administration, I too have felt bewildered, frustrated, worried and at times almost dazed by the base level of words and actions coming from this White House.  There have been times the news is so awful I selected books from the shelves in our home concerning the Founding Fathers as an antidote.  Over and over my spirit is restored by the words and work of the Founding Fathers when they made sure the needed checks and balances were constructed within our Constitution.

We have James Madison, in large part, to thank for the checks and balances that are now taught in civics classes.  No president can accumulate power and fortify the Executive against the will of the people.  The separation of powers by co-equal branches of government allows for attempts at tyranny to be checked.

This week another chapter in our nation’s long political narrative will play out as public hearings start in the impeachment process concerning Donald Trump’s abuse of power.  It is clearly upsetting to many Americans because no one can be pleased with the necessity for such proceedings.  But at the same time, we must accept the umbrella of resolve that the Founders placed in the Constitution.  They read about and understood the nature of man.  They placed in that document a process to remedy those who would abuse the privilege of high office.

In many ways, the checks and balances over the past two and a half years have protected our nation.  Not with every issue, or to the degree that reasoned men and women would desire.  I say that with a sense of certainty not only in hindsight but also looking forward.  Reading history has proved that many dark nights confronted the nation and we still found the resolve to write another chapter as a people.

President Lincoln argued at the start of the Civil War that one reason it needed to be fought was to show to the world that our democratic experiment could not be so easily undone.  If democratic principles could not find success here, then where?  Those who would so carelessly undo the fabric of the nation had to be defeated.  And they were.

And so it is today.  When illiberal democracy presents itself in the populist themes used by this current occupant of the White House there is only one way to deal with it, and that is it must not be allowed to continue.

The United States has endured illiberal attacks from Trump concerning the Fourth Estate, the judiciary, FBI, CIA, along with a laundry list of other institutions.  But in each case, the resolve of the institution met the challenge of the time.  In each case, the built-in checks and balances have proved effective.  From freedom of the press to the patriotic men and women in the State Department, who have stepped forward to volunteer evidence in the impeachment proceedings, there are ample reasons to have faith in our ability to confront and win this latest battle for our republic.

While I can understand the anxiety felt by the woman on the sidewalk, along with all those others who have spoken with the same angst, I trust that after our conversation she also had a reason to hope.

I hold out that same desire to my readers of Caffeinated Politics.   We will write another shining chapter in our national story.  Just believe it.  And work to make it happen.